The incoming Democratic leader in the Florida House is putting pressure on elected officials (read: Republicans) to get moving on implementing the Affordable Care Act.
"With the election over, today I am urging Governor Scott to take action to implement the nation's health care reform law," said Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, in a statement.
Thurston said he was encouraged by Gov. Rick Scott's decision to drop his staunch opposition to the president's healthcare reform, known as Obamacare. However, the Democrats are putting pressure on Scott and the Republican-led Legislature to take action on implementing the law in order to meet federal deadlines that will be hitting in the coming weeks.
The deadlines to announce plans for a state-based healthcare exchange start as early as Friday. If state lawmakers don't make proactive plans in the next few weeks, the federal government will act on Florida's behalf.
Thurston's Republican counterpart, incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said that the state will begin to move soon, but the federal government has not provided enough guidance.
"The problem is, there are hundreds of questions that are out there with regard to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act," said Weatherford.
Weatherford said the next move is to look at whether the state would benefit from a state-run health exchange, a federally-managed exchange, or some kind of compromise.
While deadlines for the state exchanges are imminent, another major decision left to the state will be whether or not to expand Medicaid to cover more people. Scott and other elected officials originally expressed unwavering opposition to that prospect, but Pres. Obama's reelection appears to have created some flexibility among Florida's top lawmakers.
The top concern is how much the Medicaid expansion—which originally will be paid for by the federal government—will cost Florida in the long-run. There are signs that it could save hospitals money.
"We don't know the true cost for the state," said Weatherford. "And for us to agree to something without knowing the true fiscal impact to the state is a little premature."
See Thurston's full statement below:
Florida House Democratic Leader-designate Perry Thurston Statement
On HEALTH CARE REFORM IMPLEMENTATION
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Representative Perry Thurston (D-Plantation), the House Democratic Leader-designate, issued the following statement on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Florida.
"With the election over, today I am urging Governor Scott to take action to implement the nation's health care reform law. While encouraged by recent remarks by the governor on this topic, decisions still need to be made for Florida to meet approaching deadlines established under the law. A significant deadline is tomorrow (Friday, Nov. 16) to announce whether our state intends to create a digital marketplace, or exchange, where consumers can shop for health insurance. In addition, I urge my colleagues in the Florida Legislature to remain mindful of other upcoming deadlines toward Affordable Care Act implementation that may require our prompt input."
The following are a few deadlines facing Florida regarding Affordable Care Act implementation:
· Friday, November 16: Deadline to submit a declaration of intent letter to federal health regulators concerning establishment of a state-run health exchange.
· December 14, 2012: Deadline to submit applications for a state-run health exchange, including a draft plan.
· February 15, 2013: Deadline to submit applications for a federal-state hybrid health exchange.